Come on summer, bring on your burning sun and the heat…your scorching, broiling days. It did pour a bit on July 4th, and we had to drive back home unhappy that night, without having seen the firework show at the famous USS Battleship, in Camden. But it is getting unbelievable warmer these days, with temperatures hopping beyond mid-90’s in Fahrenheit. And they say that mercury would only soar high this week, and rise in the next few days in this part of New Jersey. No respite…not until this weekend, said the Weatherman on TV yesterday.
I stepped out for some essentials this evening and it didn’t feel like I should have. It was hot, dry and discomforting, like someone was blowing a big, huge hair dryer on my face. Looked like the stand alone trees, the mirage roads, the air, the sky, the almost fuming earth, my car and I — everyone needed a shower!
This and all made me homesick today. I wanted to run back (if I could!) to Ma-Baba into that colony house in the small town I grew up in. Those days, we didn’t have air-conditioners in my house. Traditional ceiling fans made more noise than doing their jobs with circulating air in our rooms (even when set at their highest speed). So we had to rely on our two old-world style evaporative air-coolers. These air coolers were these big, heavy electrical boxes with an inner lining of wood wool on three sides (that would soak in the water), and a motor-powered fan on the fourth, which would evaporate the water and circulate the cool air out into our rooms. These coolers were usually mounted on a metal stand to bring them to the window-level heights. Before the onset of summer months each year, it was Papa’s, my brother’s and my responsibility to hold and carry both the heavy cooler boxes along with their stands from our Garage (where they are blissfully abandoned to rest during the winter months), and half-around our house to reach outside one of our bedrooms and our guest room (their destination in summers). We would then clean them, fill in water and switch on after a bit to catch some of the “cool” our cooler would pass on.
In the Northern regions of India, summers aren’t easy. Because they bring along Loo, or the strong arid dry winds originating from the Great Indian Desert that blows over the Indo-Gangetic plain until late summer. Loo’s are dreaded because they cause heat-strokes. So when rest of the world went to beaches in bikinis and shorts or felt like reducing down the length and load of their clothing to catch some breeze in summer, people in that part of India would have to go out all wrapped up to cover skin and head and minimize exposure to the heat and Loo. And perks for those who brave this heat outdoors? Well there are more than one. A thin and tall glass of chilled sugarcane juice, traditional creamy Kulfi-Falooda (Indian Ice-cream), the sweetest and best mangoes on earth, fresh made lemonade with mint, Aam-Panna (Indian-Green Mango drink), watermelons and slices of cucumbers rubbed with spicy salts/chutneys, among others — the summer specials, at roadside stalls. Your growing up in North India doesn’t count if you haven’t had these foods!
The part of central Uttar Pradesh where I lived, was very close to Lucknow, the capital of the state. It takes pride in it’s Kulfi, claiming them to be the world’s best. The region seriously can boast of some superb Kulfi served with traditional Mughal-style Falooda, that you’ll find nowhere else. Kulfi is a popular traditional Indian ice-cream that is rich, dense and made out of unwhipped cream. Customarily, they are made to freeze and form in closed/sealed containers. Falooda is yet another favorite cold India dessert that is very commonly served with Kulfi, and are starchy translucent noodles, often accompanied with rose or other flavored syrups. Both Kulfi and Falooda owes their origin to Persia and were introduced in India by the invading Mughal Kings. Agra in Uttar Pradesh being the headquarters of Mughal empire, it is no wonder why you’d find the best of Mughal culinary traditions still deeply rooted in this state. Kulfi’s are still sold in most parts of India in big round earthen pot — containing the sealed Kulfi-metal cone-molds — and covered with a bright Red cloth soaked in water, to reflect back heat and to keep the pot and the Kulfi within, cold .
And then I immediately think of the exotic mangoes. India is a heaven-land for this tropical fruit. No place better that produces a sweeter and more gorgeous mangoes. And why else would you think ancient Indian poets and writers all sang and wrote praises on Mangoes in their classics?
Yes, summers remind me of nice and beautiful things — of sucking on mangoes, of licking Kulfi and of sitting right in front of my old yet powerful air-cooler, and letting it blow all the soothing cold air on my face on a hot summer afternoon!
I got a good mango from the Indian store the other day. It was slightly sour, yet was better than the usual quality of mangoes you’d see in these stores most of the time. And I was going to make Kulfi out of it. Traditional Kulfi’s are made after slow boiling and reducing milk for a long time until thick and them seasoning it and processing it a little before freezing them. They are then served with Falooda and rose/fruit syrup or with a generous dose of roasted and chopped nuts (especially pistachios). Neither did I have the luxury of time to make Kulfi the age-old classic manner, nor was I left with any patience to chop some roasted nuts and garnish the delicious Kulfi I made. I whipped a few ingredients together in a bowl and set it to freeze. Once the Kulfi was ready to eat, all my impatience allowed me was to drizzle a bit of the rose syrup I had in store (as you will see in the picture). Sometimes the fruits of “no-labor” are the sweetest too!!
I am sharing the recipe with you. Please try it. It is a no-cook, no-mess recipe involving only 5 ingredients and a quick-mix-and-freeze technique. And since I did not use any water here, it is very unlikely you’ll see any ice pellets/crystals in your Kulfi. The Kulfi is firm, and yet smooth, soft, silky and has every bit of the mango-madness. Addition of coconut cream adds in a very welcome tropical flavor to this Kulfi and the surprise clove’s flavor gives it an urban twist! It should be a huge hit among kids, as it was in my house!! In the meantime, you all enjoy your bright summer days. Happy sunshine!!
- 1 regular ripe and sweet Mango pulp (preferably of non-fibrous variety), pureed without water
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp coconut cream (I opened a can of coconut milk, and spooned out the set, white, coconut cream at the top carefully, without adding any coconut water.)
- 1/4th tsp ground Cloves or Cloves powder (can use Cardamom powder in place of clove’s if you prefer)
- 2 tbsp (or less) extra sugar, if the mango isn’t sweet enough** — Optional/depending on the quality of mango
- A few drops of light olive or veg oil to grease freezing containers/molds
- Handful of roasted and chopped nuts like Pistachios, Almonds and Cashews for garnishing (***Optional)
- Falooda and Rose syrup for garnish (***Optional)
- Your favorite sweet syrup (rose or fruit) to garnish (***Optional)
- In a mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients and whip for about 30 seconds.
- Taste the Kulfi mix and adjust sugar/clove spice if needed
- Transfer the contents into a greased and freezer-safe mold/container with lid, and cover. Choose a container/mold that will fill in nearly completely, to minimize trapping much air between it’s surface and the lid and to avoid it’s forming ice crystals on the Kulfi surface.
- Freeze in a refrigerator freezer for at least 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Take out the mold and tap-tap-tap nicely enough to get the Kulfi out of the mold onto a plate. Or, go the easier way and scoop out the smooth Kulfi and serve them in an ice-cream bowl. Garnish with nuts, falooda or rose/fruit syrups and enjoy your summer!